Earlier I told you about Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity by Time magazine columnist Joel Stein and how his book tour was sponsored by Stark Raving wines, even if Joel didn’t talk much about wine in his book.
Joel enjoys wine, he just doesn’t think it is particularly manly.
“It takes too much thought. There are too many subtleties. It is manly in the knowing everything about the Civil War kind of way, though,” Joel said when we talked about it.
Okay then. I could see his point, but was still puzzled by the wine company sponsoring the book tour.
But Stark Raving isn’t your typical kind of wine company. Even if it is ultimately a part of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines which has a vast portfolio of wines (big, bold, manly ones as well as more subtle, nuanced ones), it is still created by Rosenblum Cellars. Rosenblum Cellars founder Kent Rosenblum, who brought California Zinfandel into the spotlight, grew to fame by being manly (I hope Joel would agree on this one), bold and going against the grain… which resulted in critically acclaimed wines. Rosenblum winemaker John Kane, who developed those wines, is also the winemaker behind Stark Raving.
Stark Raving sources its grapes from Argentina, France and California in making Stark Raving White (a blend of Chardonnay and Moscato), Stark Raving Red, (a blend of Tannat, Zinfandel and other red varieties) Stark Raving Malbec, and Stark Raving Cab.
For the book tour, Stark Raving created casual parties in each city where food truck chefs were invited to pair the wines with their own creations to battle it out for not only the thrill of victory, but also the honor of a donation to Meals on Wheels to be made in the food truck’s name. Joel got to enjoy the food, wine and mingle with his fans, as well as those that came initially for the food and wine and then, I’m sure, became fans.
Although I had to miss the party in my hometown of Houston, it sounds to me like it was quite a delicious night. Here’s what was served:
- Phamily Bites - garlic noodles with clams, cooked in Stark Raving White wine
- H-Town StrEATs - Stark Raving Red wine braised flatiron steak sirloin with Stark Raving White braised local greens, foie gras mustard and deep fried foie gras
- Soul Cat (winner) – Chef DC’s Firecracker Shrimp with Stark Raving White wine and pork loin pinwheels stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes paired with Stark Raving Red
As I said in my last post about his book, Joel said these wines were to be “gulped, not sipped,” and go great with takeout and pizza. He also said that they aren’t wines you have to think about, and would be good for a casual party.
“If I was at a casual party and saw those wines, I’d go with them,” he said.
He pointed out that Stark Raving Red “Might be made from French grapes, but it tastes American.”
When I spoke with Jessica Callahan, Brand Marketing Manager – Lifestyle Brands, Diageo Chateu & Estates, she explained that the wines are meant to pair with anything and be approachable and versatile. “Wine can be fun and approachable. It doesn’t have to be stuffy and stodgy,” she said.
Since I had to miss the party, Stark Raving sent me a few samples of the wines, which I enjoyed last week with Tricia Renshaw, winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes. Granted, neither Tricia or I are manly, but we thought we’d give the wines a try.
Both of us agreed with Joel that we would pick these wines at a casual party, too, if given the option. Each was enjoyable and any would go well with food.
Tricia, who can describe wines like no one else I know, had these observations on each wine:
- Stark Raving White–peach pie with a buttery crust vanilla, cinnamon
- Stark Raving Red–cloves, cinnamon, baking spices, not contemplative, tannic, a bit sweet, would be good with a bold food, like old Spics- familiar
- Stark Raving Malbec–dark fruit, black cherries, leather, light herbal
- Stark Raving Cab–mint, beef roast spices, a little salty, beef and carrots stew, high in tannins and acid
The suggested retail price on each of these wines is $12.